If there is one thing that everyone can agree on these days, it might be this: These are dark days.
The timing smacks of something poetic, if not downright cosmic: Just as the changing angle of the Earth’s axis subjects us in the northern hemisphere to more and more hours of darkness, the entire planet is still under siege by a coronavirus pandemic that continues to tighten its grip and has already claimed more than 300,000 lives in the U.S. alone.
While the approval and rollout of vaccines is providing a tiny bit of illumination to help us make our way forward, that little bit of light is almost being extinguished by the politicization of the response to Covid-19—driven by self interest and with zero compassion for the sick, the health care workers, the grieving families, the teachers and students, and the millions of Americans struggling and going under because of the stricken economy.
Meanwhile, a populace already horribly divided—the depth of the division determined in large measure by which source of “information” they trust—is being needlessly and heedlessly exhorted to reject the outcome of the presidential election while still accepting the fairness of voting on every other office on all the ballots across the country.
And, as if that were not distressing enough in itself, the sprouting of these dark seeds of doubt in our democracy can’t help but make it that much harder for the next administration to make inroads in conquering the pandemic and move on to tackle the other major challenges our nation, and the world, are facing.
But At Quaquanantuck refuses to yield to the darkness. The darkest hour is just before the dawn, they say, and this is the reason why so many cultures down through the years have organized celebrations to welcome the return of the light around the time of the winter solstice. So let it be with us this year as we mark the solstice and all the holidays that dot the calendar in this period.
It certainly helped to restore this writer’s faith in brighter days to come when I learned this week that I will no longer need to ask for voluntary subscriptions to the column because I will be receiving almost $58,000 in Covid-19 relief funds from a United Nations commission. While I might ordinarily question why the United Nations would offer this kind of relief to a struggling columnist in Quogue, I have to believe it’s true because it’s right there in the email I received last week:
“Re: Covid-19 Benefits
Flores, Monica<[Monica.Flores@dubiousemailaddress (.gov)]>
You are selected to receive $57,800 as United Nations Compensation Commission Covid-19 Relief fund. Write to with [sic] the below agent to file your claim.
Grace J. Prisco
to office@[dubiousandlikelydangerous_emailaddress (.org)]
Monica Flores UNCC Covid-19 Response Team”
Now, since it’s the United Nations, I’m guessing I’m not the only Quogue resident who will be receiving this generous relief package. And while I’m not about to speculate on what any readers might wish to do with their money, At Quaquanantuck intends to embrace the spirit of the season and get the jump on bringing back the light by giving back to the local community that sustains this column and makes this village such a special place to be a part of.
Shop Local for Gifts, Goods and Good Food
First of all, I’m heading downtown. The Jessup Avenue business district is as vibrant as ever at this time of year. For starters, with Christmas just a few shopping days away, Homespun is open seven days a week; Double Rainbow is open six days a week; Quogue Liquors is open seven days a week; and Flowers by Rori is open six days a week.
Theresa Fontana let At Quaquanantuck know that the Little Q-Quogue Shop is open seven days a week right through Christmas Eve. “We arrive early and stay late,” Theresa wrote in an email. “Many beautiful holiday gifts for all. As always, local delivery and festive wrapping is our pleasure.”
Just down the street, Theresa’s other enterprise, Beautiful Beach House, will also be open seven days a week through Christmas Eve. This shop has “fun gifts for all, specializing in unusual ornaments and housewares with a splash of men’s accessories,” Theresa says. “Our best sellers are bicycles: the Quogue Cruisers!
“Our bikes come with our guarantee, free air and lite repairs for life! Women’s bikes available in baby pink, powder blue, nautical navy and ocean green. Men’s bikes available in chocolate brown.”
After the holidays, both stores will be open year round and by appointment, the proprietor noted.
Meanwhile, the fine folks at the Quogue Country Market are wishing everyone in the village a Merry Christmas and suggesting that residents “spend your time with your family and friends and leave the cooking to us.”
The Market and Chef Mike Nicholson have put together a mouth-watering menu for a “market-made to home served” Christmas Eve dinner menu. Featured are a wide array of hot and cold appetizers, entrées, potato and pasta sides, hot vegetables and salad.
All items will be picked up cold and oven-ready. Deadline for ordering is Monday, December 21, and the catering pickup window will be on Thursday, December 24, from 7 to 11 a.m. If you are not already on the QCM email list, contact the market at email@example.com and ask for a Christmas Eve dinner menu. You can also stop by the market and pick up a hard copy; then call or come in to reserve your order with Peter or Angela, 631-653-4191.
Speaking of victuals, word has reached At Quaquanantuck that a recent Facebook post indicates that Cor J’s Seafood store down by the Ponquogue Bridge will be closing for renovations on December 31 and reopening on or about February 10. The post also has this, my FB informant tells me: “In keeping with the Cor J Seafood tradition, Jimmy Coronesi will continue to select and buy the freshest fish for Lighthouse Seafood, which is the new name as of February.”
Westhampton Garden Club Stages Tailgate Topiary
The Westhampton Garden Club is an organization that is dedicated to bringing light and life to the community at all times of the year. As dedicated correspondent Lynda Confessore writes:
“Unable to hold their annual topiary decorating workshop for East End Hospice patients indoors at the Quogue Firehouse, determined members of the Westhampton Garden Club created an alternative on Monday, December 7. Club president Melissa Morgan Nelson and Topiary Chair Barbara Sartorius organized an outdoor tailgate workshop in the parking lot.
“Two lines of cars with hatches raised served as supply stations supervised by member elves Kathy Lomas and Sally McGrath, or as spaces for masked members to bedeck the topiaries with ribbons and holiday ornaments. The finished topiaries are distributed to patients throughout the East End and at the Kanas Center for Hospice Care.”
Dreams of Summer Bring Light to Winter Days
Lynda was also kind enough to share with At Quaquanantuck another lovely project of the WGC.
“Nature offers beauty in every season, but now that winter is closing in, visions of summer can be an antidote to grey days. With that in mind, the Westhampton Garden Club has produced a video celebrating the private gardens of its members that can inspire at any time, simply by visiting www.westhamptongardenclub.org/tour.html.
Featured in the video are three different gardens. While Ine Wiijtliet’s historic home was built in the late 19th century, over the years she has added new character to an old garden. Her plantings and design embrace her attention to composition and color, a daily practice for her as an artist in her painting studio.
Kathy Lomas’s garden tells the story of generations of gardeners going back to her husband Lynn’s grandfather. Amid beautiful plantings that create several private spaces, a veggie “Victory Garden” benefits from the couple’s devotion to composting practices, which Kathy demonstrates in the video.
Dorothy Hom and Michael Straus are the club’s “Rose Whisperers” serving as a resource on all things roses. Their garden is a visual textbook of the results of proper soil, feeding cycles, stimulants and the aesthetic mix of scale and fragrance.
Historical Society Seeks Funding for Schoolhouse Restoration
At Quaquanantuck is hoping to share a substantial portion of its United Nations windfall with the Quogue Historical Society, in support of the QHS initiative to restore Quogue’s 1822 one-room Schoolhouse, said to be the oldest surviving schoolhouse building on the East End of Long Island.
As pointed out in a recent mailing from the Historical Society, this charming structure is “indisputably the most important historic public building in the Village. The 198-year-old Schoolhouse is not only a rare example of its type and form, it preserves a remarkably high degree of architectural integrity, including original pine floors, plaster walls and ceiling, wainscoting, and 12 over 12 windows. As such, it is a remarkable historic document for learning about education in early America.”
The Schoolhouse, listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing resource in the Quogue Historic District, was in use for 71 years, from 1822 to 1893. During those years, it was the only public building in Quogue; when school was not in session, it was used for Sunday school and mid-week prayer meetings. From 1822-1876, the Schoolhouse stood at the edge of Quogue Street where Old Depot Road begins. In 1876, when Old Depot Road (then called Post’s Road) was opened, leading to the new train station, the Schoolhouse was moved about 400 yards north.
In 1893, after a larger, two-room school was built on ]essup Avenue (the site of today’s Quogue Fire Department), the 1822 one-room Schoolhouse was closed and abandoned. It was rescued in the early 1900s by Abram Post, who moved it to his property just east of the Quogue Library and used it as a workshop.
In 1947, the Post family donated the Schoolhouse to the Quogue Library to be used as a museum operated by the library’s newly formed Historical Committee. In 1948, it was moved (for a third time) to the grounds of the Quogue Library and, in 1949, opened as a museum. In 1977, the Quogue Historical Society was organized as a separate nonprofit entity, successor to the Library’s Historical Committee, and in the 40-plus years since, the Historical Society has maintained and operated the Schoolhouse as a museum open to the public offering changing exhibitions, as well as tours for school-age children and adults.
Since opening as a museum in 1949, repairs and restoration of the one-room schoolhouse have been ongoing, including installation of electricity in 1962; new cedar posts in 1969; a new foundation in 1975; and a new roof in 1979. The exterior was re-shingled in 1987, and the roof in 1997.
It has now been more than 20 years since the last major restoration project, but in 2019, as part of the Quogue Library renovation and expansion, the Schoolhouse was relocated on the Library grounds, offering the Historical Society an opportunity to undertake critical repairs and restoration work on the exterior and interior of the building. A full history of the 1822 Schoolhouse, with historic images, is on the QHS website: quoguehistory.org/at-home-post/1822-schoolhouse-history/.
The total cost of the major Schoolhouse restoration project is estimated to be $240,000. So far, the QHS has received donations and pledges of approximately $90,000 from the members of the Society’s board and close friends of the Historical Society. To fund the remaining cost of approximately $150,000, donations are being solicited from members of the Quogue community. And to acknowledge the generosity of those who give $2,500 or more, the Society will list the names of those donors on a bronze plaque outside the Schoolhouse.
As village resident Cephas Foster wrote in January 1822: “We have had a busy job, a few individuals, to build a SCHOOL HOUSE. We got it completed and I do not hesitate to say that it is the best now in the County.”
In 1947, the original “Appeal for Restoration Funds” letter to Quogue residents had this: “This worthy community enterprise … should appeal to all interested in the traditions, standards, and historic values that have made Quogue notable.”
To find out more about the current restoration project, visit quoguehistory.org/at-home-post/1822-room-schoolhouse-2019-2021-restoration. To find out more about making a dedicated donation to the Schoolhouse project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
And readers should remember to renew their memberships in the QHS, or join now, by clicking on the Support tab on the QHS website at www.quoguehistory.org.
Support Quogue Wildlife Refuge Annual Appeal
Whilst we are in the giving mode at this time of year—and reaping some useful write offs at the same time—another great organization to support is the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, which is currently raising funds via its annual appeal.
As Executive Director Mike Nelson wrote in a recent mailing: “We couldn’t have imagined a year like this one— but through your continued support we’ve been able to continue our mission, providing a sanctuary not only for our resident animals and wildlife but for the community and visitors seeking the great benefits of the outdoors.
“In the spirit of gratitude this season, we are indebted to the wilderness of the Refuge itself. Beneath tall pitch pines, on a carpet of earth, we were still able to host summer camp and educational programs throughout the fall. Old Ice Pond provided a place to paddle and explore while safely distanced, and the trails have given many of us a place to roam freely. As we head into cooler weather, our inspired staff has come up with ways to keep folks outdoors, and when we’re not able to connect in person, we are thankful to be able to ‘see’ you in virtual online programs.
“Most of all we are grateful for you. Your generosity makes all of this possible as we creatively navigate this new terrain together. Please consider making a contribution to our 2020 Annual Appeal today.”
As At Quaquanantuck has noted before, support for the Quogue Wildlife Refuge is always a win-win, whether you are becoming a member or donating to the annual appeal (quoguewildliferefuge.org/get-involved/become-a-member-today), adopting a bench (quoguewildliferefuge.org/bricks-benches-bee-hives), or buying some QWR gear or an ornament for a gift (quoguewildliferefuge.org/gift-ideas).
And always check the QWR website, quoguewildliferefuge.org, for upcoming programs.
Hampton Theatre Company Readies Virtual Performance
At Quaquanantuck also considers the Hampton Theatre Company another organization that deserves some portion of my $57,800 relief funds. Members of the HTC have wrapped filming of their socially distanced performance of the “Lux Radio Theater Miracle on 34th Street.” Filmmaker Sydney Sheren is now editing the footage shot on December 16 with an eye to getting the production posted on the HTC website, HamptonTheatre.org on December 19 in conjunction with the company’s end-of-year appeal.
This show within a play features seven (socially distanced) actors, including Maureen O’Hara (Rosemary Cline), John Payne (Andrew Botsford) and Edmund Gwenn (George Loizides), reprising their film roles for a “broadcast” in 1948 of an adaptation of 1947’s newly minted Christmas classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.” Also in the cast are company regulars Rebecca Edana, and Terrance Fiore, and a newcomer, Roger Moley.
With no ticket and concession sales or program advertising over the past nine months, the future of the HTC is now entirely dependent on patrons’ support. This year though, for those who are planning to include the Hampton Theatre Company in their end-of-year giving, the donation could be thought of as buying a ticket:
For all donations of $25 or more, donors will be emailed a link for exclusive one-week access to the show as soon as the edited film version is posted on December 19. On December 24, the show will be made available to all on our website.
There’s no telling when live performances indoors will be coming back, but in the meantime the members of the Hampton Theatre Company are determined, with patrons’ support, “to keep making theatre on whatever platforms and in whatever venues we can.” To make a donation/buy tickets to the filmed performance of “Miracle on 34th Street,” visit www.hamptontheatre.org. And remember, patrons, theatre lovers and the merely curious are urged to check out (and “like”) the company’s posts on Facebook (@hamptontheatre; facebook.com/hamptontheatre); Instagram (hamptontheatre; instagram.com/hamptontheatre) and YouTube (youtube.com/channel).
Lauren Lyons Exhibition at Quogue Gallery through December 31.
“Lauren Lyons: A Bender of Fiction,” featuring 12 large scale provocative photographs from highly stylized shoots that the artist conceived and styled over the course of the past 20 years, will remain on view at the Quogue Gallery at 44 Quogue Street through December 31.
Ms. Lyons is a self-taught photographer who got her start decades ago photographing musicians in Philadelphia and New York City. Over the years, she has made photographs for album covers, promotions, concerts, and festivals and worked with record labels, magazines, concert promoters, A&R scouts, and advertising agencies.
Her photographs represent a vision that is uniquely her own, from the original conceptualizing to scouting and choosing unusual locations, deciding on wardrobe or coming up with physical modifications for nudes, scene and model styling, and adding props.
Sabrina De Turk, an Associate Professor with the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University in Dubai and a friend of Ms. Lyons, wrote this about the artist’s work:
“The power of observation is overwhelmingly present in the work of Lauren Lyons. Her intense photographic portraits capture emotions both fleeting and timeless. Context and scene are important components of the image, yet, in the end, it is the haunting and evocative characters in her work who are the most compelling…”
Born in Southern Delaware in 1969, Ms. Lyons moved to Philadelphia about 30 years ago. As a result of her love of music and her involvement with the music industry as a photographer for many years, she was selected to be a voting member of the Grammys and held that distinction for 18 years. The artist lives and works in Philadelphia and Quogue.
For more information, visit quoguegallery.com.
Quogue Library Offers Array of Virtual Programs
Quogue Library Director Jenny Bloom is keeping the faith, on completion of the library’s renovation and expansion and on what she hopes the future holds. As she wrote this week in an email:
“I am really hopeful that the new year will bring new opportunities to connect with each other. The library construction continues to move forward, but there are many pieces yet to fall into place. We are estimating a March opening time frame now. I am not sure what service will look like at that time, but we are moving through what we all hope is the worst of Covid, and that the end of winter will be the start of so much reconnection. It will be entirely true at the Library, too.”
“Staff and board are looking ahead,” she wrote, “but in the meantime, the library is here for you in whatever way we can help. And we miss our community. Please call if there is anything we can help with.” (631-653-4224.
In the virtual programming department, the library is keeping things busy. Popular ongoing exercise classes include Pilates on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Sculpting and Cardio Dance for all ages on Tuesdays at 10 a.m., both with instructor Leisa DeCarlo; and Yoga with Jillian for adults and youngsters 8 and up on Fridays at 10 a.m.
Adult programs coming up include: a presentation by Chris Paparo, of Fish Guy Photos, as he takes participants into the World of Falconry; “Feng Shui with Laura Cerrano” to harmonize and balance your home at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 7; another Virtual Paint Night program to create a “winter wonderland” scene on an 8- by 10-inch canvas with artist Marie Camenares on Friday, January 8, at 7 p.m. All supplies will be provided in a kit to be picked up at the Quogue Library on Midland on January 2 during library hours. The next meeting of the Anti Racism Book Club will be on Tuesday, January 5, at 7:30 p.m.; discussion will focus on the “The New Jim Crow: Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander.
For more information or to register for any of these programs, visit the Quogue Library website at quoguelibrary.org and click on the program flier on the home page. Remember that new programs are added regularly, so check the website often to make sure you don’t miss out.
Gift Ideas for Literature Lovers
For the readers on At Quaquanantuck’s gift list, high on the list would be “Cold Moon—On Life, Love, and Responsibility” (Turtle Point; November 3, 2020; 104pp) by Quogue literary light Roger Rosenblatt.
The simple fact is this: gift givers can never go wrong with anything that Roger has written, and the reviews so far for “Cold Moon”—characterized in one as “memories and musings from the winter solstice of a life”—are consistently excellent.
A key quote from the book reveals the theme: “Better to know where to go than how to get there. I wander from thought to thought, having learned but three things from my long night’s moon. I believe in life. I believe in love. I believe we are responsible for each other.”
Next on the list would be a book of poetry, a new collection by a sometime visitor to Quogue, former two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. “Whale Day: And Other Poems” is the title of the new collection, and for those who may be unfamiliar with the author, these are poems for poetry lovers, poetry agnostics, and people who have always thought they might like poetry but have been intimidated by its opacity.
Penguin Random House describes the new collection this way: “Billy Collins’s new collection brings together more than fifty poems and showcases his deft mixing of the playful and the serious that has made him one of our country’s most celebrated and widely read poets.
“Here are poems that leap with whimsy and imagination, yet stay grounded in the familiar, common things of everyday experience. Collins takes us for a walk with an impossibly ancient dog, discovers the original way to eat a banana, meets an Irish spider, and even invites us to his own funeral.”
Both these books do what writing does best: they help readers integrate the mundane and the mystical in the human condition and meander gracefully along the perplexing pathways of the human experience.
Remembering Village Police Detective Michael Fruin
Along with other readers of Mayor Peter Sartorius’s regular emails, At Quaquanantuck learned this week of the passing of Quogue Village Police Detective Michael Fruin, a tragic loss for his family, for the Police Department, and for all of us who call Quogue our home.
As the Mayor wrote: “On Sunday, Detective Michael D. Fruin of the Quogue Village Police Department suffered an apparent heart attack while at home and passed away. He was 50 years old.
“Mike joined the Quogue Village Police Department in 1992 as a part-time officer, and he became a full-time police officer the following year. In 2005 he was promoted to become the Department’s Detective, and he continued in that capacity for 15 years until his untimely death.
“Many [village residents] no doubt ran into him while he was investigating a matter, on one of his occasional patrol tours as a substitute for another officer, or while he was supervising the parking at a local party. Unfailingly, Mike was an affable spirit while at the same time being highly professional and competent in his job. We will miss him a great deal.
“Mike is survived by his wife, Susanne; a son, Robert; a daughter, Jennie; and a granddaughter, Violet, to whom we send our deepest condolences. We are anticipating that a memorial service will be held at a later time.”
At Quaquanantuck joins the Mayor and so many others in the village and surrounding area in sending condolences to the family, and in expressing gratitude for Detective Fruin’s truly magnificent record of service to our community. His loss represents a real tear in the fabric of our community.
At Year’s End, Grateful for Your Support
This is the last column of 2020, a year beyond any imagining in which village residents and institutions came together to try to sort out the day-to-day and maintain some semblance of some of the touchstones of life in Quogue as we have known it.
Thanks to readers’ support, encouragement, and generosity, I have been able to keep the column going and two months ago, successfully shift to a (primarily) once a month schedule.
Unfortunately—since on reflection I doubt that I will be endangering my identity or exposing my computer to all manner of spyware and toxic viruses by trying to collect my $57,800—I am making one last appeal for voluntary subscriptions to help me defray some of the costs of time and expenses. So, if you have the wherewithal, the column continues to have value for you in the monthly format, and you’d like to support keeping it a free resource for the community, please consider taking out or renewing a voluntary subscription (i.e. contribution) of $60 … or more … or less.
Regardless of whether or not you have made or make a donation, I’d like to express my gratitude for all the kind words and support that have come my way over the past twelve months. I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to try to reflect some of what makes this community so special back to readers who appreciate the attempt. I’d also like to thank all those readers who sent beautiful photographs, not all of which were published, and news items and comments: All of these help to keep the column vital and connected.
I hope that all readers and all in the extended family that is our community can keep safe, stay healthy, find joy in your connections to family and friends, make new connections and be open to different points of view, and maintain faith in brighter days to come. Happy solstice, one and all.
Your Comments Welcome
At Quaquanantuck is happy to provide a forum for civil discussion of village issues and initiatives and welcomes all comments. All are encouraged to share observations, ideas and opinions by writing to AtQuaq@gmail.com. News Items and Photos
At Quaquanantuck encourages readers to send in news and notes and photos of interest to Quogue residents, even if the items are being sent from winter addresses or other parts of the country—or the world. Friends and family who enjoy all things Quogue are encouraged to email AtQuaq@gmail.com and ask to be put on the mailing list.